How was the Higgs boson discovered

Higgs particle discovered : What holds the world together

But why they have to make it so damn difficult. After three quarters of an hour and dozens of slides full of cryptic signs and diagrams, Fabiola Gianotti, a slender woman with long black hair that falls in waves on her shoulders, says: “We have found indications in our data of a new particle with a mass around 126 gigaelectron volts. “The signal, the scientist continues, has a significance of five sigma and more data would have to be collected in order to explore the nature of the particle in more detail.

But that is the part of the message that always comes in such cases and that the audience in a fully occupied lecture hall on the premises of the Cern is no longer so keenly interested. Everyone thinks:

We discovered the Higgs particle!

And the old white-haired gentleman from whom the particle got its name, Peter Higgs, sits there, applauds timidly and has tears in his eyes. “It is unbelievable that this happened in my lifetime,” he says later.

It is that elementary particle that previously only existed in theories, which should be the missing building block in the standard model of particle physics, a kind of building instruction for our world, our universe, our existence. The elementary particle that, thanks to the title “God Particle”, enjoyed unheard-of public attention for basic research.

A machine was built with the aim, among other things, of finding the particle, a gigantic apparatus of a kind that mankind had not created before. A 27 kilometer long ring deep underground, the construction of which cost six billion euros. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European nuclear research center Cern in Geneva was supposed to become the "Higgs trap".

The search for the particle began half a century ago. Even then, physicists were working on a comprehensive theory that was supposed to describe which elementary particles exist and how they react with one another. They call it the standard model of particle physics. The formulas explain, for example, the weak interaction, without which there would be no radioactive decay of atoms and no nuclear fusion, as it happens continuously in our sun and gives us light and warmth, and therefore life.

At the beginning of the 1960s, however, this standard model had a serious flaw. It couldn't explain why elementary particles have mass. If they were really massless, everyone would whiz through the universe at the speed of light and no atoms could form. Life as we know it would be impossible.

You must have mass, but where does it come from? Scottish physicist Peter Higgs and a few colleagues came up with a revolutionary idea. According to his theory, which he published in 1964, the entire universe is pervaded by a special field in which the particles are caught and slowed down. The stronger the particles react with this Higgs field, the greater the mass with which they are “charged”.

The theory was the salvation of the Standard Model.

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